Misty Copeland “lit up the stage” in her Broadway debut in the revival of the musical On The Town on August 25 at the Lyric Theater. In the production, Copeland plays Miss Turnstiles, a love interest for one of three sailors enjoying a few hours of shore leave in 1940s New York. The part was originally played by Megan Fairchild, a principal dancer at the prestigious New York City Ballet, CBSNews reports
Copeland only had six weeks to rehearse a role that allows her to showcase her impeccable ballet skills, along with plenty of high-performance acting and singing.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Copeland said after making her debut. “I felt nervous that I was going to forget stuff, which I don’t typically feel. We rehearse so much as ballet dancers and the steps become ingrained in your muscle memory.”
The New York Times describes the reaction of the “young and diverse” audience to Copeland as “wild,” and “cheering her entrances, big numbers and giving her a thunderous standing ovation at the end.”
“The audience is so different from what I’m used to. You know immediately that they are excited to be here, and it’s an incredible feeling. I just felt so overwhelmed — that first entrance and throughout,” Misty said.
— Holly Butler (@HollyAnnButler) August 29, 2015
The 32-year-old dancer, who recently announced her engagement to longtime love and actor Taye Diggs’ cousin Olu Evans, has never publicly sang, something which made her quite nervous about stepping on stage for On The Town.
“Stepping into this theater for the first time — I felt nervous and it’s been a long time since I’ve really felt nervous about performing,” Copeland said. “Having one ‘put-in’ rehearsal with the full cast did not feel like enough before making my debut.”
Page Six reports that Copeland celebrated her debut with a Gotham magazine-hosted bash where editor Catherine Sabino toasted Misty in front of her castmates and producers, as well as many celebrities, including Josh Groban, Taye Diggs, and Star Jones.
Misty, who says she was “pushed” into becoming a ballerina, was discovered at age 13 by a ballet instructor at her local Boys & Girls Club in San Pedro, California. She had no prior ballet training or knowledge of the art, as she and her five siblings were raised by their single mother — oftentimes in a motel room — who struggled to put food on the table and keep them safe from the outside world they so feared.
“I had no introduction to the arts in any way — definitely not the fine arts,” Copeland told the NY Post. “Survival was our Number 1 priority, not extracurriculars, or a career. These were not things we thought about.”
“I was pushed into it,” she said. “I was just a very nervous, fearful child, afraid of anything new.”
Copeland’s years of training and dedication have certainly made her a passionate and fearless dancer, as well as an advocate for opening up ballet to minorities and the underprivileged.
“For young African-Americans to feel that they have a chance to see a brown face on the stage, that Ballet isn’t this white world that’s untouchable to them — I think having that visual does so much,” said Copeland. “I think it’s so important for them to see me and to hear me.”
With her Time Magazine cover, her 60 minutes profile, and being the first African-American woman promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland is on track to being the most influential ballerina in world.
[Image via Bennett Raglin/Getty Images For SheaMoisture]